The Killing Joke
Originally published in Synthesis Weekly: May, 2009
Before I was a staff writer for Synthesis, I was an avid reader of this weekly publication. I knew which columns I enjoyed, which parts I merely skimmed over, and which sections I looked forward to every week. And although one of my favorite columns has always been Daniel Taylor's, there have definitely been times when I recoiled in disgust at the topics he chose. Like he said, he's the guy who writes about pooping...and drinking...and the crunching noise made when a dog gets hit by a car. However, his candid opinions just keep me coming back every week for more.
Now that I work for Synthesis, and have a place to vent weekly about whatever I choose, sometimes I find myself asking, “is this too much”? “Am I going to get in trouble for writing this”? Whenever I'm facing those questions, I inevitably have to remind myself... “Daniel Taylor writes about pooping”. By comparison, everything else seems pretty tame.
The moral compass is a topic that has been used countless times in the comic universe. A couple of weeks ago I reviewed the graphic novel Arkham Asylum. I mentioned at the end of the column that it was one of two graphic novels given to Heath Ledger for inspiration, the other one being The Killing Joke, written by Alan Moore (of Watchmen), and drawn by Brian Bolland. The Killing Joke was originally published by DC in 88' but was reprinted in 08' in a hardcover edition, which featured new coloring by Bolland, which better represented the somber and subdued nature of the story with according colors.
The plot is essentially a psychological battle between Batman and the Joker. The Joker has escaped from Arkham Asylum and is on a mission to drive Commissioner Gordon insane to prove that even the best caliber of person is capable of going mad after having a “bad day”. Within the story, there are various flashbacks of the Joker's life. He originally was a lab assistant who quits his job to pursue his dream of becoming a stand up comedian. After failing, and having a small breakdown over not being able to support his pregnant wife, he agrees to help two criminals rob a company next door to the chemical plant he used to work at. Unfortunately his wife dies in an apparent accident, and he's driven to dispair. I won't ruin the ending for you, I'll just say that this graphic novel is very worth reading. The writing is very typical of Moore, and is an in depth look at the Joker and his origin. When looking back at Ledger's portrayal of the Joker in Dark Knight, the inspiration from The Killing Joke is extremely apparent.